President Donald Trump delivered his second State of the Union address on Tuesday night, and the theme was supposed to be all about American unity.
“The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda,” Trump said, just seconds into his address. “It is the agenda of the American people.”
Despite that proclamation, the president’s rhetoric focused largely on an aggressively conservative agenda. Many female Democrats (as well as, perhaps by coincidence, Tiffany Trump) wore white in honor of the suffragettes and watched with limited applause as Trump rattled off his own partisan, fear-mongering goals for immigration and foreign policy.
Here are 11 times Trump’s speech about American unity leaned on the party politics that have come to define his administration rather than bridging the partisan divide.
“Walls work, and walls save lives.”
Trump’s call for a border wall is about the most divisive issue facing American politics right now. His request for $5.7 billion in funding for the project catalyzed 35 days of the longest government shutdown in history and might lead to another in just 10 days if Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on a way forward.
Trump continued to support his position on border security with falsehoods about immigration, as he has often done in the past. “Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by illegal aliens,” Trump said. Research, however, shows that undocumented immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes than American-born citizens.
“As we speak, large, organized caravans are on the march to the United States.”
Trump has repeatedly used the threat of “migrant caravans” to push his anti-immigrant agenda and previously claimed — without any evidence, as he later admitted — that terrorists were among migrants traveling toward the U.S.-Mexico border as he advocated for a border wall.
Trump’s scapegoating of the caravan drew widespread condemnation from human rights groups and Democrats. Trump also made a claim about Mexican cities loading migrants onto trucks to take them to the border, an assertion for which there is no apparent evidence.
Trump called out “savage gang” MS-13 and applauded ICE.
MS-13 is a violent gang that often employs Mexican and South American teens in drug trafficking operations. But in his many references over the years to the group, Trump blows the problem out of proportion.
Only 56 out of 250,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border since 2011 were either suspected or confirmed to have gang ties in their home countries, according to the acting Border Patrol chief.
When Trump brought up MS-13 this time, it was in reference to a New York City shooting that police say involved an MS-13 gang member. The event, however, just happened on Monday, and the investigation is ongoing.
On top of that, Trump applauded hundreds of thousands of arrests made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and directly called out the #AbolishICE movement touted by some new progressives in Congress.
“I pledge to you tonight that we will never abolish our heroes from ICE,” Trump said.
Trump called for a ban on “late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother's womb.”
Trump urged Congress to pass the new legislation after saying that New York lawmakers “cheered with delight” when they passed a new law that “would allow a baby to ripped from their mother’s womb before birth.”
New York Democrats voted last month to officially protect the right to an abortion in its state law — just in case the Supreme Court, now with a conservative majority, decides to overturn Roe v. Wade. The law would allow healthcare providers to perform an abortion within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, or later if the patient’s life or health is being threatened.
Trump said he had unleashed a “revolution in American energy.”
Trump applauded U.S. oil and gas production without making any mention of climate change.
Meanwhile, Democrats and progressives are calling for a Green New Deal that would force the U.S. to divest from fossil fuels and invest in green infrastructure and jobs.
Trump expressed alarm over “new calls to adopt socialism in our country.”
Speaking of progressives, Trump’s condemnation of socialism was an underhanded swipe at Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the growing political group, the Democratic Socialists of America, that supports them.
Many right-wing politicians have dismissed Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez’s ideas as “socialist.” Recent polls, however, show that young people on the left now support socialism more than capitalism.
“Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” Trump said.
Trump congratulated himself for withdrawing from the “disastrous” Iran nuclear deal.
Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal did anything but unify. The president’s critics — including members of his own party and leaders around the world — argued that the move risked outright disaster for the U.S. and its allies.
Trump called Venezuela’s opposition leader the country’s “legitimate” president.
The Trump administration’s decision to call for an ouster of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was hugely controversial and drew widespread condemnation from leftists, who said the president was encouraging a regime change in a foreign nation. Venezuela’s main opposition party boycotted the election over accusations of rigging, and violent, dueling protests broke out in favor of and in opposition to Maduro.
Trump called Jerusalem the “true capital” of Israel.
Trump’s decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem — which he called the “true capital” of Israel in his speech Tuesday night — was hostile toward Palestinians, who are in an ongoing conflict over Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. The U.S. government almost universally supports Israel, although it's becoming increasingly debated among progressives in the new Congress.
Many human rights groups and progressives say Israel’s occupation is illegal, and Palestinians are subject to rampant human rights abuses. The embassy’s move itself triggered deadly protests.
Trump said “school choice” (aka charter schools) helps working parents.
As public school teachers have voted to strike throughout the nation, Trump took the time to applaud charter schools, which drain resources from school districts strapped for funds and lack oversight.
Trump said he handed down a “massive tax cut” to working families.
Trump said that his tax policies benefited “working families” — but he failed to mention that his estate tax and other tax cuts principally benefit extremely wealthy Americans. Recent polls indicate a majority of Americans support greater taxation on the rich, which progressives including Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are calling for.
Cover image: President Donald Trump, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence looking on, delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol Building on February 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)